F-35 Jets land on HMS Queen Elizabeth for first time

F-35 Lightning jets have landed on the aircraft carrier for the first time.

Pilots, engineers, and cyberspace and mission support staff from 617 Squadron, the UK’s operational strike squadron, embarked the carrier over the weekend during a quick stop in Portsmouth for supplies, before the aircraft themselves landed on board.

It marks the first time 617 Squadron – famously known as the Dambusters – has fully joined HMS Queen Elizabeth as the UK prepares to deploy the next generation squadron of fighter aircraft to operate from the sea.

The F-35 jets are the same aircraft that will sail next year with the ship for her maiden Global Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment.

Credit: Royal Navy

“We are excited to be on board the carrier and we have been training hard to be here,” says Commander Mark Sparrow (Commanding Officer, 617 Squadron).

“This is the first time the ship’s operational squadron has embarked and worked together.

“The F-35 brings next generation capability to UK Defence through its ability to find, destroy or avoid enemy air defences and enemy aircraft whilst gathering intelligence data.”

“Today is a significant day for HMS Queen Elizabeth on the road to delivering carrier strike operations for the Royal Navy,” says Commander Ed Phillips (Commander Air, HMS Queen Elizabeth).“We are at the heart of a world-leading capability for the UK and will soon have on our decks two squadrons of F-35s – from the UK and US – plus the protection of a strike group made up of destroyers, frigates and support ships.”

The plan is to enter an intense period of flying training, having just successfully completed four weeks of basic sea training.

The aim is to demonstrate that the jets can successfully defend the aircraft carrier by delivering combat air patrols – launching from the ship to conduct strike missions against a target – and being ready to take off at short notice.

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